It is great that the Cheddi Jagan International Airport’s management has decided to enhance their taxi driver and porter services with training in customer relations. This is fantastic. But more needs to be done. Let us not forget the disgrace when we had Guyana’s first international plane crash in Timehri, and a taxi driver was fleecing injured, depressed and scared local and foreign passengers. This got negative publicity in the world via the internet and the media.
Imagine if this taxi driver had helped people for the sake of humanity, he would have been a hero, may have won numerous accolades and may have been interviewed by the major international television networks and received a Guyana national award as a hero. Instead he brought shame on the airport and Guyana.
Now the idea of the turn system for taxi drivers is excellent, but there are times when a passenger is more comfortable with a particular taxi driver. Some are rude; some wish to drive where they wish and take the route they wish. I personally had this experience, and though the route I was choosing was easier and had less traffic and smoother roads, that young driver wanted to drive through the city streets with bad roads and numerous turns. He then said his job was to get the passenger to his destination. Of course, he did not get a tip, and I usually give a good tip, as this is how they make their living.
So there must be an understanding that the turn system works, but if a passenger requests a particular driver, then the customer is always right, and that is sacrosanct. He should travel with his choice.
On one occasion one driver refused to take me as he wanted more than the stipulated sum because he saw me checking the board. I told him that you cannot wish to work in a system, and then negotiate out of the system; that is bad for the airport, and to foreigners it will look disgusting and it will be shameful for Guyana. There and then the entire battalion of drivers decided to boycott me, saying they were booked, which was a lie. I would have given him more money, but I detested the fact that he demanded it. A red cap gentleman was so upset, that he went to get a public bus for me.
Before I could decide to write the media on this a senior manager of CJIA called me in the morning at my residence and said he had heard of the situation. Obviously the airport management has an intelligence network inside, and this is good; this is excellent management, and they should keep it up. If they got it by chance, then they should establish an internal intelligence network. The manager mentioned that he would have the driver fired, but I did not wish this, and asked that the man be counselled and disciplined in some way. He must understand customer relations and respect rules in a system he has signed up to. It appears there was, and maybe still is a group that operates like this, but they could be discovered and dismantled.
Do not get me wrong, there are several top quality drivers who go out of their way to satisfy their customers. I have as a result become friends with them; of course in every system one would have good and bad ones, and some in between.
During the Cricket World Cup season, I had made a recommendation while serving at the then well managed GAPSO (Security Organization) as President. That was that they establish a system whereby the passenger pays his fees in advance and the driver gets a chit. The day after, they submit their chits for cash, or it could be done weekly. Of course tips can be given by the passenger whenever. The management of the CJIA thought about it, and discussed it with the drivers who disagreed. The CJIA management conceded as I predicted. Of course such ideas are beyond some people, but maybe in about ten or twenty years, after much frustration the system will be implemented.
I recommended that the airport implement this system immediately and not wait for ten years or more. The taxi drivers, who disagreed, will soon agree. Whoever wishes to leave, let them do so. Many others will join the team in a progressive system. Very soon they will come asking to be reconsidered, and then they should pay a reapplication fee.
I salute Mr Ghir, CEO, and also the super polite and caring, very professional taxi drivers. They know themselves. Let us keep the standards high. Congratulations!
National Commission of Law and Order